Ep 025: Music Making Tips with Sam Matla

Today we are thrilled to be joined by Sam Matla, the founder of EDMProd.com and host of the EDM Prodcast, as well as the author of The Producer’s Guide to Workflow & Creativity. Sam has been making music since he was 14, so when it comes to electronic music production, workflow, and more… he knows his stuff!

In this podcast, he shares his best production advice, as well as what he has learned over the years about improving workflow. You’ll also learn why it is so important to focus on increasing the quantity of music you’re producing, as opposed to putting all your energy into a few tracks.

The audio tip of the week is about improving your own music by listening to songs that you already love critically. While everyone can appreciate listening to beloved tunes just for the joy of it, taking a moment to listen to songs critically will help you discover exactly what it is that makes those recordings so great. Focus on things like the low end, the effects, the dynamics, the tone of the instruments, and how it all fits together. What exactly do you like about the music? Is there anything you don’t like? These are the questions that will help you get better in your own music production. After all, if you want to get better at something, it always helps to observe the best.

Now, get ready to dive into this podcast to take in Sam’s wisdom and learn how you can start applying his tips and tricks to make your music even better.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode:

  • Audio tip of the week: Listen to your favorite music critically and study what makes it so special.
  • How to get better at music production as quickly as possible.
  • Why producers should focus on quantity over quality.
  • Ways to develop your creativity.
  • Sam’s tips for making a living with music production.
  • Advice on networking in the industry.
  • How to improve your workflow.

Featured on the Show:

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Full Transcript of This Episode

Scott: Hey, what’s up, everybody? Scott here, bringing you another episode of the AudioSkills Podcast. This week, we’ve got a great show for you, where I’m going to be talking about music making in general and diving a little bit into electronic music production with the founder of edmprod.com, Sam Matla. Before getting into all of that, I wanted to start off with your audio tip of the week. My tip this week is pretty simple: listen to music that you love critically. Listening to music is fun, and it’s great for just developing your taste and your ear, but if you want to improve at producing and mixing specifically, listening to the same music critically can be a huge, huge benefit.

We all have our favorite songs, so the next time yours comes on, try listening to it in a different way. Focus on the low end. How does it sound? What do you like about it? What do you dislike about it? Try to dial in on the effects, the dynamics, the one of the instruments, the panning, and how things all fit together. If you want to get better at anything, it helps to observe the best. Music is no different. So while it may not be quite as fun as just bumping a great song that you love, it can help you discover not only what you like and what you don’t like when it comes to mixing and production, but also what makes awesome recordings and mixes sound so great. That is your audio tip of the week.

Now, I am thrilled to introduce our guest for this week, who’s going to be talking a little bit about music making and electronic music production with us. His name is Sam Matla, and he is the founder of edmprod.com and host of the EDMProdcast, as well as the author of the Producer’s Guide to Workflow and Creativity, so he knows a lot when it comes to electronic music production. Sam, welcome to the show, man.

Sam Matla: Hey, Scott. Thanks for having me on. It’s great to be here.

Scott: Right on. How’s New Zealand these days?

Sam Matla: You know what? It is raining outside at the moment. It’s been raining for a good two, three hours now, but it’s good, man. It’s a great country to live in. I love it.

Scott: That’s awesome. You know, visiting New Zealand is definitely a bucket list item for me, and no, not just because I’m a fan of Lord of the Rings. No, seriously, I have a few buddies who went on a backpacking trip there a number of years ago, and the pictures they got were just amazing. It seems like such a wonderful country, for sure.

Sam Matla: Yeah, it’s beautiful, man.

Scott: To start us off, can you just tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you have going on over at edmprod.com?

Sam Matla: Yeah, for sure. As you mentioned, my name is Sam Matla, and 50% of people make the mistake and they say Sam Malta or they write Sam Malta, but it’s not. The T goes before the L. I got into electronic music production and online business around the same time, age 14. I would come home from school, and instead of doing homework … This is high school. Instead of doing homework, I would just make music or I would just work on whatever blog or business project I was working on at the time. I’d just spend time on that.

Scott: I love it.

Sam Matla: I tried running a few blogs on various topics, skateboarding, personal productivity. They all failed. Then, in June 2013, I kind of sat down, and I was like what am I going to do? I’m 18. Am I going to go to college? I have no idea. I’d been making music for four years. I tried a few businesses. I just decided that I would commit full-time to making music, and on the side, I would run a blog, EDMProd. Within about two weeks, it switched around, doing the blog full-time and making music on the side a few hours a day. Initially, it was just a blog and YouTube channel back then. Nowadays, it’s one of the most popular websites for electronic music producers. We have over 200 articles, 60-plus podcasts, episodes, a range of products. I could never have predicted that it would get to this point back then.

Scott: That’s amazing. That’s amazing. These days, you have your products. You just have blog posts. Don’t you have a number of other producers and things like that that write content for you and help you with courses and things, right?

Sam Matla: Yeah, for sure. I’ve got one other team member at the moment. His name is Connor. We’ve had a few other people who help out with content and products and stuff like that. That’s kind of the goal over the next couple of years, to get more people involved. There are a ton of talented artists, producers out there who could benefit from teaching or creating content or something like that. It’s something I really care about.

Scott: Right on. For today’s show, I actually want to talk a bit about electronic music production and making music, in general. Two questions off the top. What is electronic music production, and what music genres most typically exemplify electronic music production.

Sam Matla: Great questions. I would say it’s pretty simple to define. I define it as making music on a laptop. I have to answer this question a lot, because any kind of event, social event, whatever, people ask, “What do you do,” and I have to explain what electronic music production is. Making music on a laptop or a computer. That’s what 90% of electronic music producers are doing. In their bedrooms, they’ve got a laptop. They’ve got headphones. They’re writing songs with software. So it’s music that’s made through mostly electronic means. Now, obviously, you can record live instruments and so on and so on, and people do that, but for the most part, it’s synthesizers, digital audio effects, and that kind of stuff.

As for genres, that’s a bit of a controversial question. I would say that the genres that exemplify electronic music production, house music, trance, dubstep, drum and bass. These would be the key ones, I would say. If you think about the top 40 music that’s coming out nowadays, most of that is electronic music. Most of it is synthesized and so forth.

Scott: Absolutely, yeah. It’s something that I think it started definitely over in Europe, I know, back in the day. It hadn’t quite penetrated into the pop charts in the way that it is today. It makes sense, too, that a lot of people today want to make that kind of music, because that’s what they’re hearing on the radio or that really moves them or they go to the club or whatever. It’s so amazing, too, the technology that allows you to make this music on your laptop. It’s really revolutionized music making. My next question is would you say basically anyone, assuming that they have some kind of ear for music, could make electronic music?

Sam Matla: Yeah, absolutely. I am of the camp that believes very few people are born tone deaf, and if you aren’t born tone deaf, you can learn an instrument. You can learn to make music. There’s this myth out there that I’m not a musical person. That is a myth. There’s no scientific basis for it, as far as I know and what I’ve looked at. I would say yes. Anyone, if they want to, assuming they’re not tone deaf or deaf, can make electronic music. All you really need to get started is the software—I use Ableton Live—a pair of headphones, decent headphones, and a computer. Any modern computer will be powerful enough to run this software. So the cost of entry is low.

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. Even if you were someone who wanted to start doing vocals or something, microphone technology keeps getting better and better, and there are so many options out there where you can get a pretty darn solid mic right off the bat that could get you some good vocals. It’s not going to get you the type of vocal that would be an $18,000 microphone or something crazy, but it’ll sound good. Yeah, the barrier to entry is pretty low. Kind of shifting gears, you talk a lot about workflow on your site. You actually have a few courses on it. Tell us, what is workflow, and why is it so important for producers to have a firm grasp of their workflow?

Sam Matla: I love Wikipedia’s definition for the word “workflow,” and that is how a piece of work passes from initiation to completion. In the case of music production, it’s how is a song started and finished. When people talk about workflow, when producers talk about workflow, they might be referring to how fast one works, how they deal with creative block, the sequence in which they do things, and so forth, so it’s not a narrow term. A lot of people talk about it in different ways. To me, it’s how you start a song and take that through to completion. How do you come up with an idea? How do you take that idea to enter an arrangement? At which point do you mix it down? So forth.

In terms of why it’s important, I have three reasons. The first is it helps you work faster, which results in an increased output of musical work, songs. Which, in turn, results in faster skill development and better music. There’s a great argument to be made for quantity over quality. Adam Grant, in his book Originals, talks about this, that creative people in history, the ones who did best produced a large, large quantity of work. That helped them learn very fast, and also, it increases the chances of a piece of your work getting popular.

The second reason it’s important is it helps you overcome creative block and creative resistance. You know where you need to go next. You have the tools to help you solve problems. If you don’t have a workflow, you can get to a certain point in a project and you’re not sure where to go. You’re just like, “I don’t know how to turn this into an arrangement.” That’s an issue, as well. The third reason I think it’s important is because it reduces frustration. You’re not moving around a project blindly. You know where to go, what to work on, and when to work on it. You have a general idea of how to take melody or chord progression or a drum, a sequence, turn it into an arrangement, mix it down, and so forth. It’s a road map, of sorts.

Scott: Right on. It’s so important, too. At AudioSkills, I’ll get emails from people who are stuck, quite frankly. They’re frustrated with their music. They’re like, “I’ve got all these ideas, and it just isn’t coming out the way I want it to.” It makes sense to me that so much of that can go back into, well, what’s not only the order in which you’re doing things, but how are you generating your ideas, and what’s your process behind that? Are there things you can do to improve it? That kind of leads me to my next question, Sam, and that’s if you could give one best tip or piece of advice for someone who wants to improve their workflow, they recognize that, yeah, how I’m doing this, I’m not finishing things the way I should, what would that be? What would your best piece of advice be?

Sam Matla: My best tip would be to find the weakness, the core weakness. With any producer, there’s going to be something they’re not good at, which is slowing them down in a project. For me, early on, it was writing melodies. I just sucked. I couldn’t write good melodies. Every time I would start a song, when I got to that point when I would have to write a melody, I would normally quit. One thing I did is I decided I would start all my songs by writing a melody so that I couldn’t avoid it. The second thing I did was create kind of a routine or practice routine to get better at writing melodies. I would say that. Find what your weakness is. Find what’s slowing you down the most. Work on it, practice it, and then put it back into your workflow, and it should make the songwriting process easier.

Also, try and separate the processes. This is another tip altogether. When you start a new song and you’re writing a melody or chord progression, just work on that. Don’t worry about mixing. Don’t worry about sound design. You can’t and you shouldn’t separate the process completely, but you should at least try to. What happens is you get distracted. If you struggle with something like melody writing and you’re good at sound design, naturally you’ll follow the path of least resistance, and you’ll just come up with an average melody and song. I would say separate the processes and find your weaknesses, improve on them.

Scott: That makes a ton of sense. It’s just a natural human instinct. If something is particularly problematic for you, you shy away from it. That will make it even worse and worse and more challenging. Next thing you know, it’s just become this huge road block. Whereas, if you force yourself to, I guess, almost turn into it and just say, “No, I’m going to face this right off the bat,” it makes sense to me that that can only help you push through that and get better. I know, with me, one of the things I still struggle with a bit in songwriting is I have the exact opposite problem. I can come up with melodies and simple chord progressions, but then I have trouble putting it together with, okay, I have this melody I really like, this chord progression I really like. Now, how do I put it all together, get my chorus, get my bridge, all that, and build the rest of it? That’s the easy part for me, but then the hard part is the grind it out kind of stuff.

Bottom line, workflow is important, and sometimes, just working at it and focusing on the weakest part, that’s how you can do it. That’s a great piece of advice. Speaking to this, we’re talking about improvement and getting better. I saw a really awesome quote the other day, and I shared it on the AudioSkills Facebook page. It was, “Music is all about wanting to be better at it.” I just love that, because it’s so true, right? My question is what’s your best advice for someone who just wants to get better at music in general or electronic music production specifically as quickly as possible? These days, we’re all pressed for time. We all want to get instant results. Of course, there’s no substitute for just experience, but someone who wants to really level up as quickly as possible, how can they do that?

Sam Matla: Two main things, and I’m going to preface this with a disclaimer. If you want to learn as quickly as possible, it is not going to be that enjoyable, because it’s going to be hard. I like to take a scientific approach to all of this. It’s a concept called deliberate practice. This was a guy called Anders Ericsson. He’s a researcher. He’s actually the leading researcher on expertise, so why people are successful, how do they become successful. He came up with this idea of deliberate practice, which is hard to define, but extremely directed practice on a specific thing, specific weakness. Now, when most people practice, they kind of do things that they know how to do or they’re comfortable doing. If you play soccer, you’re more inclined to do the stuff you know how to do, because it feels good, you can show off, whatever. Deliberate practice would be doing that thing that you hate doing that you really suck at and doing it repeatedly for like an hour, 90 minutes straight. That’s just not enjoyable, but that’s what makes you better. This is what Ericsson is saying.

When it comes to music production, if you want to learn as quickly as possible, what I would recommend is applying these deliberate practice concepts to music. The way you do that is by remaking other tracks. What that’s going to do, professionally made songs, pull them into Ableton or whatever DAW you use and just try and remake them. What that’s going to do is show you this huge gap between what you know and what this other person knows, the gap between your music and this other music. You work and you work and you work, and you try and get as close as possible. While doing that, it’s really not that fun. While doing that, you improve on all these skills. I would say that, but most people listening to this, they’re going to probably try that, and they’re going to quit doing it, because it’s really hard.

The second thing I would say, which maybe is a bit slower but still effective, is what I mentioned earlier, which is focusing on quantity, not quality. What I mean by that is not disregarding quality completely, but if you’re a new artist, if you’re a new producer, in fact, if you’re new in any creative field, your focus should be quantity. That is how you’ll learn quickly, by going through a lot of different types of work. If you spend three months on your first song, that is a lot of lost opportunity compared to making 10 songs in three months, even if the first five aren’t going to be as good as that one song you made in three months. I would focus on quantity over quality. You just learn a lot faster, and the quality actually comes from quantity inevitably.

Scott: Absolutely. I took a creative writing course, just for fun, a couple years back. One of the things the person who was teaching the course mentioned is the difference between someone who wants to be an author and someone who is just writing. The difference is someone who wants to be an author writes something, and then it’s like, “Oh, that’s terrible. Well, it’s a good start.” Or just finishes something and they’re unhappy with it, and they’re like, “Well, that wasn’t my best, but maybe I’ll write something else.” That idea that just getting something down and then being able to look at it and say, “Okay, this wasn’t everything I wanted it to be, but there were good parts. There were bad parts. There’s something I think I can do better next time.” That’s how you learn, is by doing something. Last thing I’ll say is there’s this great Netflix documentary. Well, it’s on Netflix, I think. It’s called Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Sam Matla: Oh, yeah?

Scott: Yeah. There’s this amazing part where I believe it’s his son, and his son is trying to make this egg sushi. There’s a specific process to make this egg, and he makes it, and every time he brings it to his dad, his dad’s like, “Not good enough. Not good enough. Not good enough.” So he does it, does it, does it. Then, he’s like, “Finally, I brought it to him and he said, ‘Now, that is done well. That is perfect.'” He’s like, “I almost wept, and it was amazing.” The idea is that he just grinded on it over and over. Yet, it’s not always fun, but the idea is that every completion is an opportunity to learn something and improve, right?

Sam Matla: Exactly, yeah.

Scott: Kind of speaking to this, I think there’s another idea out there. We were talking earlier about how some people feel like you either have an ear or you don’t, and very few people are actually tone deaf. This thought that creativity is one of those things where people think, “Oh, well, I’m not a creative person.” You are either creative or you are not. In my experience, creativity is actually something that I believe can be fostered. Do you have any advice on how to, I don’t know, develop your creativity, specifically for producers?

Sam Matla: Sure. Everybody is creative. By everybody I mean, sure, there are people out there who do have legitimate disorders and they can’t be creative, but beyond that, everyone listening to this is creative. It’s something that definitely can be developed. The first thing is to understand that it’s not I’m just not creative, because as soon as you start thinking that, you’re not going to be creative. It’s kind of this vicious loop.

Scott: Right.

Sam Matla: The biggest thing to understand is that creativity is a habit, and composers and artists in history understood this. They understood that you have to put in the work. You have to force yourself to sit down sometimes and just push through. You can’t wait around for inspiration. If you think about the Sistine Chapel painting, I mean … What’s his name?

Scott: Michelangelo?

Sam Matla: Yeah. As far as I know, he really didn’t enjoy painting that. He said something like it was one of the worst times in his life. He got paid to do it from the Catholic Church. It’s not like he felt inspired to do it.

Scott: Right. It was a job. Yeah, right.

Sam Matla: There’s a great little analogy from … It was on the Late Show. Neil Strauss, I think, New York Times Bestseller. He was saying if you work for the New York Times, the newspaper, and you’re a writer, you don’t go to work and you don’t sit there, get to like 10:00 a.m., you’re like, “You know, I just have writer’s block today. I just can’t do this.” You don’t do that. You don’t tell your boss, “Oh, man, I have writer’s block today,” and he’s like, “Oh, just go home.”

Scott: You wouldn’t be employed for a lot if you were.

Sam Matla: You’d get fired. The mere fact that people can and are paid to do creative work on a daily basis is saying something. I would recommend reading a book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Fantastic book. He talks about this idea of the resistance, which we all face when we sit down to do creative work. Various reasons why that comes up. I think the main thing to understand is that creativity’s a habit. You’ve got to put in the work every day, and sometimes you just have to force yourself to sit down and push through.

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. I don’t know if it was Bob Dylan that said it or someone else, but they were talking about songwriting. Maybe it was Ben Folds. I can’t remember. The point is what was said is that if I waited until I was inspired to write a song, I’d never get anything done. Often, inspiration, that thing that just gets you so excited, that comes out of sitting down and writing or producing or whatever it is that you’re doing daily and making that happen. We were kind of talking about the New York Times and someone working there. A lot of people want to make a living creating music. You have talked to many producers who are successful at doing just that. What tips or advice might you have or you’ve learned for folks who want to put food on the table, so to speak, with music making, with production?

Sam Matla: A lot of people, when they answer this question, will give generic advice, and that’s fine. They’ll say things like, “Work really hard,” and, “Set goals.” It’s a tricky question. One thing I’m going to say, and this isn’t to discourage anyone, but don’t do anything stupid, especially if you have a family or people you’re responsible for. I have received emails from guys who have a family and they’re wondering whether they should quit their job, take up producing full-time, even though they’ve been doing it for six months. Don’t do that. Don’t do that. It’s irresponsible. It takes time and a lot of effort to build a career in this field. I think being realistic about what it takes and just being smart is a good idea.

Beyond that, think rationally and deeply about what you want your career to look like, and then develop systems to help you move towards that. My friend Joey, I actually had him on the podcast. He made it big, he was touring the world, and then he burned up. He came back and he realized he never really was suited to be a DJ, to be an artist that’s playing shows all the time. It just wasn’t his personality type. You need to know that, because otherwise, you can get two years into it, and you find yourself in this position where you feel trapped. You’ve got managers, booking agents breathing down your neck trying to make money from you. Be careful about that. Adjust along the way.

There’s a great resource called Principles from Ray Dalio. He’s the manager of the largest hedge fund in the world. He talks all about how he thinks about success or achievement, how to set goals, create systems, overcome problems. I would recommend reading that. It’s fantastic.

Scott: Right on. Right on. Now, there’s another thing that I think happens, especially when people are either just starting out or maybe they’re just working on production or making music. They want to be famous. They want those accolades or they think they want to tour the world, and I would say it’s not … Being famous isn’t necessarily the best singular goal to have if you are going into music making. That said, especially if you’re trying to sell albums and get gigs and things like that, gaining a following is certainly important. What advice would you have for someone who is like, “Okay, I want to gain a following. I want to grow my fan base or my brand,” or whatever it is. “I want to attract people to what I’m doing,” assuming that what you’re doing has to be reasonably good. What would be your advice there?

Sam Matla: If being famous is your singular goal, you’re in for a rough ride.

Scott: Yeah, you’re in the wrong line.

Sam Matla: Yeah. I say this from not having experience standpoint. I’ve neither been a big artist, but I have seen how people grow their fan base. I do have a background in marketing.

Scott: Sure.

Sam Matla: I would adhere to the 1,000 true fans model that was conceptualized by Kevin Kelly. The whole concept is that if you can acquire 1,000 true fans, you will be able to make a living off of music. A true fan is someone who buys all your music, who goes to all your shows, who buys your merchandise, who will support you on Patreon, whatever the case. When you think about the 1,000 true fans model, your marketing strategy’s going to be different if you were going to say, “I just want to be the next Martin Garrix. I want to have 5 million followers.” You start to be more deliberate about your conversations or networking. You start to think about how you can add value. You respond to comments, all that kind of stuff. I would start with that. A lot of people put the cart before the horse.

One thing to understand, and this is a little bit cynical, but no one really cares about your music, so how do you make them care? You’re not entitled to plays. You’re not entitled to fans just because you put 20 hours into a song. You have to make the listener feel something. You have to inspire them. That’s what people are after. People don’t listen to music for the music. They listen to it for how it makes them feel, what it reminds them of. You have to think about that, I think.

Scott: That’s really great advice. That makes a ton of sense. I think too many people get jazzed up because they want to be the next, I don’t know, Justin Bieber or Katy Perry, whoever. It’s like if you’re focused only on that, you’re kind of missing all the steps that that takes. What happens is if you build that core fan base, it makes sense to me that then you’ll have people who will share your music, who will sing your praises. Then, there’s that element that exists, is there’s an element of luck. How you get that is just more opportunities. Then, it’s just that one person who hands your mixed tape or your track or whatever it is to that one guy or gal, and then you get that sign or whatever, and then you’re off to the races. You don’t get there by saying, “Well, I’m just going to keep focusing on that.” You get there by saying, “How do I foster my own following as best as I can?”

Sam Matla: One thing that I’ll add to that, Scott, is that a lot of people … There’s no blueprint for success in this industry. There are certain things that will help and certain things that you should do and shouldn’t do. I think a lot of people fall victim to analyzing a Justin Bieber or a Katy Perry, looking at their story and going, “Well, if I just do that, then I’ll be successful.” The issue with that is that these people never give all the information in interviews, because you’re not going to talk about the bad stuff. Nassim Taleb talks about this in I think it’s The Black Swan or something, but there’s a narrative fallacy. We kind of revise history in our own brains so it makes more sense, like, oh, this contributed to this. I’m only successful because I worked hard. I’m successful because of this. We make these links that may not even be causal. In an interview, we’ll talk about those links, so people get a skewed idea of what actually happened in that person’s life for them to be successful.

Scott: That makes a ton of sense. If you’re just focusing on the one aspect of … Well, we were talking Justin Bieber. Whatever, Usher found him on YouTube or whatever it was. If you just are focused on that, it’s like, dude, there were so many other things that were going on, and it wasn’t quite so clear-cut and packaged as that. So much of this is random and that luck element. Yeah, that makes a ton of sense.

Sam Matla: You have to focus on what you can control. You can’t make Usher come across your music on YouTube and sign you. You can’t control that. You can control how much music you put out.

Scott: You can control the skills you’re developing and how happy you are with your music now as opposed to a few months ago or whatever. Those are the things you can control. If you want that, it’s not bad to say, “I want a successful career, and I want to tour the world and have millions of fans.” That’s not bad, of course, but it’s easier to reach that, almost, if you just focus on the things that you can control. Then, if that’s going to happen, it may happen, and it will happen if it’s the right thing. It can happen. Moving it back to electronic music production, which is just so fascinating because of the power that something you can make on a laptop … The barrier to entry is so low. Where do you see electronic music production being in 5 or 10 years? What developments or changes in technology, culture, or taste … I know I’m asking you to be a seer here, but where do you think it will go, and what do you think will shape it?

Sam Matla: Ultimately, I have no idea, but I do see a further merging of visual and audio, perhaps something happening in the virtual reality space.

Scott: Oh, yeah.

Sam Matla: Overall, I can only see it growing, and the reason is because kids these days don’t grow up … Like when I grew up, when I was 12, 13, I wanted to play guitar. Mum bought me a guitar. My brother and I got guitar lessons. That’s what was cool, playing guitar. Nowadays, kids grow up wanting to be the next world-touring DJ. They want to learn to make electronic music. That’s the new thing. I think you’ve still got this younger generation coming through wanting to make electronic music, and I don’t see it going away any time soon, but it will definitely change. I don’t know how. I honestly have no clue.

Scott: Yeah, for sure. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how it goes. At Audio
Skills, one of my mantras is how technology just keeps making things. You know, the plugins and the software, it’s better and better, and the things that you can do these days. Then, when you go way back in the ’60s and you see it’s like, well, there’s one recording studio in your town and they’ve got a ridiculous rig. That’s where you have to go to make the music. It’s like, no, these days, you can do so much and make a great, great song just all with the tools that you can download for not that much. It’s really incredible to see. Like anything in technology, there’s whatever that curve is. I can’t remember the name of it, but the idea that it’s just getting better and better. The gap between, I think, the pro realm and the amateur realm is just going to keep shrinking as technology enables so much more innovation.

This is a Scott question that I’m really interested, as I love the podcast we’re doing here, and the things you’re doing over at EDMProd are so great. You’ve been able to chat with some awesome producers, and you’ve made great connections with producers all over the world. Actually, a lot of people want to make these kinds of connections in music and everything, business and things like that. When it comes to that, what tips or advice would you have? Is it as simple as just sending an email out and reaching out and saying, “Hey, do you want to come on the show? Hey, we’ve got this going here,” or is there something else to it?

Sam Matla: I think a few things. It’s not always as simple as that, but it definitely gets easier over time. I think there’s something to be said about … There’s two main approaches, and I kind of talk the second one. The first one is networking before you actually have anything to offer, which I think is difficult. I’m talking about someone who is getting into music production, and they’re trying to network from the ground up. You can do that, and it’s not that one is better than the other. My approach when running EDMProd, all I focused on for the first six months was writing articles. I didn’t really do any networking. It was so much easier, because people had come across these articles, and they knew who I was. I think, for me, that was a more efficient approach.

With the podcast, one thing that helped a lot was leveraging other people’s networks. I’m pretty slick with this, but after most shows, I would ask the person, “Hey, do you know anyone who would want to come on the show?” Getting their warm introduction is invaluable. These people would email their friends, say, “Hey, Sam’s got this awesome podcast. Just went on it. We had an awesome discussion. Thought you might be interested.” 90% of the time, land an interview from that. We’ve had huge guests come on because of that. Then, occasionally, I think there’s something to be said about consistency and persistence.

Scott: Yeah, absolutely.

Sam Matla: I’ve had, like, two guests on, and I asked this question, and they’re like, “Sure, I’ll intro you to a few people.” Then, they intro me to seven people who are just awesome guests, and it completely grows the podcast. It’s amazing. Using that, using other people’s networks, asking for introductions. Don’t be scared to do it. The second thing is offering value upfront. This is not a new concept. A few weeks back, I had someone email me with a very short email. They just said, “Hey, Sam, hope you’re doing well. Love the podcast. I’ve made an infographic of advice shared during your interview with Sebastien Lintz. Would you like to see it? I can send it over.” I was like, “Yeah, sure, send it over.” He sends it over. It’s awesome, really well designed. He’s just bullet-pointed all the stuff. Then, he links to the episode at the bottom. I’m like, “Dude, this is fantastic.” I reply to him. I’m like, “let me know if I can do anything.” He just responds saying, “Yeah, no worries, man. I’d love if you could put out more case studies on X and Y.” That was just cool. If he comes to me, like, tomorrow and asks for a favor, I’ll do it for him.

Scott: Right. No, that makes total sense. I think so much of it is making connections, you can’t be afraid to just say, “Hey, what’s up?” Then, you have to also leverage what you have. If you are out there and you’re producing, if you’ve got some followers or if you’re looking for gigs and you get a good number of people to show up for your DJ gig or whatever it is, leverage that and say that. Hey, I’ve got this. Then, also, if you make friends with someone who owns a venue, say, “Hey, do you know anyone else who is looking for someone?” or whatever. I think that applies to so many things, and it can apply to music, business, life, whatever. Just asking, there’s no harm in that. Yeah, maybe someone will be like, “I don’t really know anyone,” or they won’t respond to you or whatever that is. The point is that’s where the persistence comes in. That’s just like keep asking, keep asking. Build your network. Ask different people, whatever.

That’s how you do it. I think so many people are also afraid, and I’ve dealt with this, too, as I’ve started AudioSkills and stuff, is the idea that, well, not everybody knows about me, so is this going to be great? Not as many people know about AudioSkills yet, but how you build it is by just saying, “Here’s what we’ve done, here’s who we are, and what’s up? Let’s work together, whatever it is.”

Sam Matla: Absolutely. Book recommendation, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. Really good book on networking. You’ve read it, yeah?

Scott: Yup. I love that book. That was a book that was recommended to me when I had an internship at a pharmaceutical company, actually, back in college. That was recommended to me by my boss. Great book. Definitely read that one. All right, so I’m going to close with just a fun question.

Sam Matla: They’ve all been fun, man.

Scott: They have been. What’s some of the stuff you’ve been listening to lately? Give me some new music recommendations. I love new music.

Sam Matla: Oh, man, I really need to listen to more music. Latest artist I’ve been hooked on is Jacob Collier. Have you heard of him?

Scott: Jacob Collier? Yeah.

Sam Matla: On YouTube. Man, he just does these awesome … You’ve just got to look him up. If you’re listening to this, he is a musical genius, and I know everybody says that aby everybody. He is. He’s literally a genius. There’s an interview with him where he talks about music theory, and it went completely over my head. He was talking about negative harmony. I don’t even know what negative harmony is.

Scott: I don’t.

Sam Matla: His music is insane.

Scott: That’s awesome. Right on. Anybody else?

Sam Matla: Honestly, not new artists.

Scott: Any classics?

Sam Matla: I’ve been listening to a lot of ’80s recently, actually. Don’t ask why. It came up on Spotify.

Scott: Hey, you know what? It’s funny. I was camping with my dad just this past weekend, and I had this ’80s mix. I was playing it while we were making the fire and all that kind of stuff, and he was digging it. The ’80s gets a lot of hate by some people. They’re like, “Oh, ’80s music, whatever,” but I’m like, no. The ’80s was great. I think there’s a lot of people that maybe they’re purists with instruments and stuff, but some of the melodies and synths and the pop music and all that kind of stuff, that was great. Especially in the ’80s, that’s when synthesizers really were starting to really get super interesting. That’s why with Stranger Things … I don’t know if you watch that show. You’ve probably heard of it.

Sam Matla: I’ve heard of it, yeah.

Scott: On Netflix. One of the big things with Stranger Things is the soundtrack is very ’80s inspired. It’s these guys, and they made it with just using synths, and they just have a bajillion different kinds of synths. You should definitely check out the Stranger Things soundtrack or actually watch the show. Anyway, the point is that the ’80s really produced some amazing, interesting things. I think a lot of people are kind of calling back to that these days, because it’s so great. Being into the ’80s, that’s awesome. You know, Sam, I just wanted to thank you so, so much for joining me. This has been really, really interesting. I feel like I learned a lot, and I hope everybody listening did, too, as well.

Sam Matla: Yeah, man, thanks for having me on. It’s great to be interviewed for once.

Scott: For sure. Be on the other side. I like it. If you would like to up your electronic music production game or just learn more about these kinds of things we were talking about, like workflow and things like that, do go ahead and check out edmprod.com and do listen to the EDMProdcast as Sam interviews pros from all over the world who just share their knowledge and their expertise and their experiences. Thank you so, so much for listening today. As a reminder, for links and information about today’s show and our guest, please check out our show notes at audioskills.com/podcast. No matter where you are, what your skill level is, what kind of music you’re making, just go out there and give it your best and make great music that inspires you.

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